Construction of Satellites

Diana S. / Physics 337 / April 17,1997
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There are several factors that bring about the construction of a satellite. The structure, design, and cost are important characteristics of a satellite. Each one has different qualities which make up a satellite.


The structure is important in the construction of a satellite. The structure must be 15-25 per cent of the total spacecraft weight which is considered light. The structure must also, "avoid resonances which would amplify by a factor exceeding 4 to 6 the vibration communicated by the rocket" (Fishlock 15).

Spacecraft structures fall into 2 large categories. The one most often used consists of a rigid core. This rigid core is like a stiff torsion tube carrying all loads transmitted by plateau, which is what equipment is attached too, with outriggers to support the other structural elements such as solar panels. "In the alternative, a box structure, most of the loads are carried by the outer surfaces" (Fishlock 15). It is used when a lot of pressurized volumes are needed, such as for a manned flight. Second, thermal control which is to keep with in suitable limits the temperature of solar radiation and by internal power dissipation. Third, power supply. In almost every Earth satellite, silicon solar cells are used to change solar into electrical energy. Fourthly, attitude control which is to keep the satellite in the necessary attitude with respect to the Earth and the Sun. Fifth, satellite in the required direction, and the attitude must be known. The last is station-keeping for which, "a sub-system is required only when it is necessary to control closely the position of the satellite as with the geostationary satellites" (Fishlock 16).


Satellites are usually made to meet the mission requirements of specific application. Their design is primarily influenced by the combination of the performance and characteristics of the launch vehicle, the characteristics of the useful equipment or payload, and the geometry of the selected orbit. The design of a Global positioning system satellite has three segments, a space segment, control segment, and a user segment. The space segment has 24 Navstar satellites (2 active and 3 spare) orbiting the Earth. They serve as the radio beacons that users sight to determine their own positions and velocities. The control segment has 5 monitoring stations and 1 master control station. They provide updated error corrections to keep the systems accurate and they also monitor the system. The user segment has a radio receiver coupled with a signal-processing computer that finds its own location by searching for more of the GPS satellites.


The cost of a satellite shows the value and expense in the construction of a satellite. In 1971 the average overall costs for launching, developing, maintaining, and operating a single application satellite in orbit over a period of 5-10 years usually exceeds 10 million a year, and often reaches several times this figure.

The manufacturing and development costs in industry of Earth satellites are proportional to their weight. "With the coefficient of proportionality lying between $100,000 and $160,000 per kg., depending upon various factors" (Fishlock 21). These factors are past experience of contractors which is often all sub-systems already developed that can readily be adapted. The design complexity, "spinning satellites with body mounted solar cells can be expected to be near the lower value, and 3-axis stabilized satellites near the higher" (Fishlock 21). Payload complexity, "costs increase rapidly with the complexity of payload instrumentation" (Fishlock 21). Even when this does not influence the simplest design of a satellite. Project duration is when fast developments are likely to cost much less than long ones but they are also connected with higher risks of delays. The last factor is overall weight which is a second order of tendency that exists, "nevertheless, towards a decrease in specific costs per kg. with increasing spacecraft weight, because several sub-systems are little affected by satellite size" (Fishlock 21).

MCI came away the winner of a Federal Communications Commission Auction. Also the worth of a global sensory organ has a cost of operating. It can cost up to more than 50 billion.


The structure, design, and cost all play important roles in the construction of a satellite. The structure consists of a light one and there are several factors that make up the spacecraft, such as thermal control, power supply, attitude control, attitude reference, and station-keeping. In a satellites design there are three segments which are, control segment, space segment, and user segment. There are also three influences in a design, characteristics of useful equipment, geometry, and performances of launch vehicle. The cost can also exceed 10 million a year. The cost is also proportional to their weight. It is between $100,000 and $160,000 per kg. and it depends on several factors, such as past experience of contractors, design complexity, payload complexity, project duration, and overall weight. The different characteristics of structure, design, and cost all serve important roles in the construction of a satellite.


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Elsevier Inc., 1971.

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A06. Newsday. CD-Rom Newsbank, Inc. 1996.

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